Monday Sep 30, 2013

5 Coolest Features of the new WebCenter Portal (11.1.1.8)

 By Mitchell Palski, Sales Consultant, Oracle WebCenter

Coming off the heels of Oracle OpenWorld last week, I'm sure many of you saw and heard about the latest release of Oracle WebCenter (released in August of 2013). As you are probably aware, there were a number of changes that were made to the Oracle WebCenter Portal feature set that focus on two major themes:

  1. Knowledge Worker Tooling – ease-of-use for Portal development
  2. Mobility – create Portals that are targeted for mobile devices
The goals of targeting these themes include:
  1. Decreasing a dependency for developers to know ADF knowledge
  2. Improving access to Portals by supporting mobile web and native phone application user interfaces
Here is the complete list of New and Updated Features (from the Oracle Fusion Middleware Document Library) for the new release of Oracle WebCenter Portal:

End-User Experience
  • Rich user profile that consolidates information from multiple profiles (OSN, HCM, LDAP, and so on).
  • Improved search experience (supported with Oracle SES 11.2.2.2) that includes faceted search and document thumbnails.
Portal Builder
  • Simplified portal creation that includes in-place page creation.
  • Redesigned portal edit and administration user interface (Portal Builder) that consolidates tasks into fewer steps.
  • Simplified page creation and editing: 
    • Inline resource catalog (with support for component drag-and-drop onto a page)
    • Design, Select, Structure, and Preview views
  • Automatic update of portal navigation as new pages are created.
  • "Lazy provisioning" of tools—Oracle WebCenter Portal configures the back-end server at first use of a tool rather than at portal creation to speed the successful creation of a new portal.
  • Hierarchical page support (subpages).
  • Device Settings that control how your portal pages render on different devices, such smart phones, tablets, and desktop browsers. Page variants can be created to target and optimally render a portal on specific groups of devices like iOS phones, iOS tablets, and others.
  • Responsive Content Presenter templates that provide an example of how you can use Content Presenter and CSS3 media queries to produce a responsive layout that adjusts to the width of the browser (for example, on smart phones, tablets, and desktop browsers).
Administration
  • Simplified Oracle WebCenter Portal administration that includes a power user oriented experience with familiar concepts for legacy Oracle WebCenter Portal customers.
  • Impersonation, which allows a privileged user to impersonate another user for the purposes of verifying the other user's experience in Oracle WebCenter Portal and troubleshooting unexpected results.
  • Improved portal lifecycle tools that enable export/import and backup/recovery of one or more portals with minimal downtime.
  • Integrated Oracle WebCenter Portal's Pagelet Producer user interface within Oracle WebCenter Portal's administrative user interface to make system administrators aware of the existence of Pagelet Producer pagelets and to allow them to make these pagelets available to end users. Integrating the UIs also provides Pagelet Producer developers to easily navigate from Oracle WebCenter Portal where they see the pagelets to the Pagelet Producer Admin UI so they can create new or edit existing pagelets.
  • New page performance analyzer that shows you how long individual components take to display on a portal page, as well as the overall time taken to display a page. This new tool is useful to developers who are performing first level performance analysis, customers who build their own pages, and any user who customizes pages in Oracle WebCenter Portal.
Development Environment
  • Developers can use Expression Language (EL) to retrieve information about Device Settings. Device Settings control how your portal pages render on different devices including smart phones, tablets, and desktop browsers.
  • Simplified custom shared library development and deployment. Oracle WebCenter Portal provides a new JDeveloper template that enables you to build custom components, such as task flows, data controls, and managed beans and deploy them in shared libraries directly to the Oracle WebCenter Portal server.
From this new feature set, I want to share my five favorite features of the new Oracle WebCenter Portal release. My opinions are solely based on my own opinions. Click here to read more about me.

5. Easy Page and Site structure creation

In previous releases, creating Pages was a step that had to be done after creating a Portal. The Portal admin would pick a template that had pre-configured services, create the Portal, and then go to the Pages tab and add the pages that their Portal requires. In the new release this process is streamlined to include setting up your site structure at the time a Portal is initially created.

Here are the benefits:
  • Less steps (clicks) for page creation
  • Only add the system pages that you need
  • New easy-to-use syntax gives you a visual representation of Portal navigation
The new syntax for page creation when building a Portal works like this:
  • List the names of pages and separate them with commas
  • To indicate that a page should be in the second level of navigation, prefix it with a plus sign
  • To indicate that a page should be a system page, suffix it with ->[name of system page]
4. Mobile UI per-device previews

In previous releases, an Oracle WebCenter business user could preview Portal pages to see how they will appear to end users when they view the Portal through their desktop browsers. I won’t waste space by telling you how mobile devices are the new interfaces into web portals because I’m willing to bet that if you’re reading this article you already know that. Now the challenge becomes developing and testing renditions of desktop interfaces that actually work on your end-users’ mobile devices.

Every family of mobile devices renders web interfaces a little differently than the next. It’s frequently the case that individual devices within those families surface web interfaces differently than others. That’s where the new Mobile Device preview feature really comes in handy for Oracle WebCenter developers.

Here are the benefits:
  • Mobile device preview fits into your rapid development SDLC methodology – make a change, preview the page immediately through a web interface
  • Group mobile devices together for best-fit user interfaces
  • Easy to plan-ahead when considering mobile devices for your Enterprise

Mobile device settings work like this:

  • Create device groups and assign specific devices to that group
  • Create a page template each device or device-group
  • Create page variants for those pages that do not render well in specific devices or device-groups
  • Configure the Portal to leverage mobile templates and variants
I do agree with Oracle Product management that this entire feature set is powerful, flexible, and ground-breaking for web Portal development. However, the coolest part of the Oracle WebCenter Portal’s mobility features is undoubtedly the preview feature.

3. Drag-and-drop Page Composer

Fleshing out a Portal page used to be a very tedious process. First you have to get into edit mode, then open the Resource Catalog, then select the taskflow to add to a page, then position that taskflow, then save, then close the page. You couldn’t switch pages from Edit view, you couldn’t clearly see what taskflows were already on the page, and the resource catalog was difficult to navigate. NO MORE!

This feature of the new Oracle WebCenter Portal release epitomizes the theme of “Knowledge Worker Tooling”. Oracle Product Management has created a page building experience that non-software developers will actually enjoy using, and be able to use through a web browser.

Here are the benefits:
  • Easily create pages so that they automatically display correctly in the site navigation
  • Navigate between pages without leaving Edit mode
  • Add taskflows from an in-context resource catalog to pages using drag-and-drop
  • Quickly build pages while and speed up your development schedule
Accessing Edit Mode is Easy!

If you have the proper rights and privileges, a user can either leverage the out-of-the-box “Actions” menu or they can simply use a simple key-stroke combination of Ctrl+Shift+E. Legacy custmers should be familiar with the similar use of Ctrl+Shift+C to enter in-context editing mode for content presenter taskflows.


Once you’re in edit mode, put on your UX Designer hat for a minute and think about how much easier Oracle Composer is to use now. The various design views are more intuitive to access, the page development is easier to use, pages can be added to a Portal directly from this screen, and the preview tools are within reach. Product Management really closed the navigational loops for Portal developers and removed all the dead-ends that used to exist in these interfaces.

Did I mention Page Editor faster to use now?? Smile and rejoice!

2. Impersonation

If you’re a Facebook user and you have any friends who are ex-girlfriends/ex-boyfriends, family members, co-workers, or members of your church group, you should have some experience with the “View as…” privacy feature. In customer use cases, security won’t be based on hiding relationship statuses from disgruntled exes and censoring spring break photos from Pastor Bob (I hope). Instead, user experiences will be based on department groups, project teams, and/or hierarchical roles. When your organization grows and your security policies grow more complex, it’s important to be responsive and accurate to additions and changes. The impersonation tool for WebCenter is great because it allows an admin to assume the profile of another user and view their user experience in a Portal.

Have you ever called into a help desk because you experienced something you’ve never seen before on a web site? Did you have a hard time explaining what the issue was? Or where the support guy/girl should click to re-create the issue? I know I’ve wasted a lot of time on the phone trying to explain myself to customer service representatives, which is why I love the idea of impersonation for troubleshooting help desk tickets. Rather than explaining things over the phone, or taking screen shots, or sharing your screen, now you can grant temporary impersonation access to your support resource. Let him/her log into your profile and try to accomplish the same task you are having an issue with and see if they experience the same problem. Take out the middle steps, close the virtual space between two talking heads, and simplify the process of correcting your issues.

Here are the benefits:
  • Provide a user with the ability to impersonate other users
  • Full traceability in system logs (ex: username will show up as “john.smith impersonating jane.doe”)
  • Control over which users/roles/groups are allowed to grant impersonation right and receive impersonation rights
1. Page performance analyzer

I’ve experienced customers with many different types of use cases, each with their own specific set of performance requirements. With mobility moving to the forefront of the modern organization’s mind, so must page performance. In order to improve your page-load times, you need to be aware of how much overhead each component of a page is costing you. Oracle WebCenter’s page-performance analyzer is a really neat tool that allows a development team to easily inspect how long each section of a page is taking to load.

Here are the benefits:
  • Quickly see how long individual components take to display on a portal page, as well as the overall time taken to display a page
  • This tool is useful to developers who are performing first level performance analysis, customers who build their own pages, and any user who customizes pages in Oracle WebCenter Portal.
Learn more:
I won’t re-write what’s already there, so please follow these links for more details information on the Oracle WebCenter Page Performance Analyzer:
Conclusion
So there you have it folks – the 5 coolest features of the new Oracle WebCenter Portal 11.1.1.8 release according to your favorite Oracle WebCenter blogger. This is my first article but will be one of many, so please provide your feedback in the comments section and let me know how I can improve!
About

Oracle WebCenter is the center of engagement for business—powering exceptional experiences for customers, partners, and employees. It connects people, process, and information with the most complete portfolio of portal, Web experience management, content, imaging and collaboration technologies.

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